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Training Models in Clinical and Counseling Psychology


Applicants often assume that training in clinical or counseling psychology will prepare them for practice (a reasonable assumption) but not all doctoral programs offer similar training. There are several kinds of doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology and each offers different training.

Considerations in Selecting Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling:

As you consider applying to clinical and counseling programs remember your own interests. What do you hope to do with your degree? Do you want to work with people and practice psychology? Do you want to teach and conduct research at a college or university? Do you want to conduct research in business and industry or for the government? Do you want to work in public policy, conducting and applying research to address social problems? Not all doctoral psychology programs will train you for all of these careers. There are three types of doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology.

Scientist Model:

The scientist model emphasizes training students as scientists. Students earn a PhD, the doctor of philosophy, which is a research degree. Like other science PhDs, clinical and counseling psychologists trained in scientist programs focus on conducting research. They learn how to ask and answer questions through the conduct of carefully designed research. Graduates of this model obtain positions as researchers and college professors. Students in scientist programs are not trained in practice and, unless they seek additional training after graduation, they are not eligible to practice psychology as therapists.

Scientist-Practitioner Model:

The scientist-practitioner model is also known as the Boulder Model after the 1949 Boulder Conference on Graduate Education in Clinical Psychology in which it was first created. Scientist-practitioner programs train students in both science and practice. Students earn PhDs and learn how to design and conduct research, but they also learn how to apply research finding and practice as psychologists. Graduates obtain careers in academia and practice. Some work as researchers and professors. Others work in practice settings, such as hospitals, mental health settings, and private practice. Some do both.

Practitioner-Scholar Model:

The practitioner-scholar model is also referred to as the Vail model after the 1973 Vail Conference on Professional Training in Psychology, when it was first articulated. The practitioner-scholar model is a professional doctoral degree that trains students for clinical practice. Most students earn PsyD, doctor of psychology, degrees. Students learn how to understand and apply scholarly findings to practice. They are trained to be consumers of research. Graduates work in practice settings in hospitals, mental health facilities, and private practice.

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